Why we should support the United Nations

Mass migration was a concern for many who voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum. There are three reasons for mass migration: 1) poverty, 2) conflict, and 3) natural disasters. Each of these causes of mass migration is being tackled under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs aim to ‘prevent conflict and maintain peace and security by ending poverty and ensuring access for all to basic services and human rights’. They were agreed in 2015 under the 2030 Agenda to improve on the progress made by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They take a more holistic approach to achieving sustainable development which encompasses economic, social and environmental factors.

So how does Sustainable Development hope to eliminate poverty and improve human rights for all? The MDGs made significant progress in reducing poverty and eradicating diseases such as TB, malaria and HIV. They enabled more children in developing countries to go to school, especially girls. Poverty, health and education are among the social goals in the seventeen SDGs.

In order to achieve sustainable development worldwide, the onus is on governments to bring all those involved in development together – entrepreneurs, investors, big and small business, and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are so important in fragile states (where governments are not supplying basic services and human rights). When governments bring everyone to the table, starting at the local level, to help their nations achieve sustainable economic growth, they help their communities to become self-sufficient. And, if people can provide for their families at home, they will be less likely to become economic migrants.

Conflict is one of the drivers of mass migration. What drives conflict? Ethnic divisions coupled with poverty and injustice – the lack of basic services and human rights. In addition to responding to natural disasters and providing support to those fleeing conflict, the United Nations is working around the world to bring ethnic communities together as part of the SDGs. For example, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is working to establish sustainable food supply systems. Their food-for-work activity in Kyrgyzstan brought together multi-ethnic residents working to produce food on small farms. WFP helps smallholders and their communities to build roads and irrigation systems. Farmers can also access programmes like R4 Rural Resilience (a joint project with Oxfam) which helps them pay for weather-based crop insurance with labour or cash.

The third cause of mass migration is natural disasters such as drought, floods, earthquakes. Crucial environmental SDGs aim to protect the natural environment and ecosystems (land and marine) as well as mitigating the effects of climate change. These are the most pressing problems for our planet. As highlighted by students who recently skipped school to protest the lack of progress in mitigating the effects of climate change, anyone who takes the trouble to learn about global warming and what we are destined to experience is scared, really scared. The world has a decade to take drastic action to contain global warming at a 2°C increase. Anything above that rise leads to unthinkable catastrophe.

With the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), governments are encouraged to focus on the goals that will set their country on the path to sustainable development, beginning with help gathering data on their current status and monitoring progress towards achieving each goal. The UNDP helps countries set up financial partnerships with public, private and philanthropic resources to support the SDGs. The 190 countries who signed up for the 2030 Agenda are all, including the UK, intent on achieving sustainable development – tackling poverty, conflict, inequality, the environment, global warming and the projected imminent worldwide devastation. But, as our young people have pointed out, progress needs to be made much faster.

The SDGs are not just about the developing countries. All countries need to work on the environmental goals. We in the UK also need to tackle poverty and inequality, as well as promoting responsible consumption and production. We need to acknowledge the importance of the work of the United Nations in helping nations achieve these goals. What goes around comes around.

Britain’s United Nations Association (UNA-UK) has produced a report which highlights progress made and the need for action. You can download the UNA-UK report (Sustainable Development Goals Delivering Change 2018), their CLIMATE 2020 Degrees of Devastation report, and find out more about their work from their website.

* Denise Watkins is a member of South East Cornwall Liberal Democrats and of the United Nations Association - UK.

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2 Comments

  • I am fully in favour of the work of the United Nations in these areas. Thank you for this clear explanation.
    One of the things which the United Nations envisages is the establishment of regional groupings of countries. In Europe we have the European Union which is unique in its democratic governance. At present members of the self appointed elite are trying to damage this by withdrawing the United Kingdom.
    The United Kingdom is a member of a group of countries which have contributed to the collapse of a number of countries. Iraq, Syria, Libya spring to mind. This results in totally unnecessary deaths, suffering, and refugees.
    It does however also lead to the prosperity of arms companies, based in the countries which are so keen to intervene elsewhere.

  • Peter Hirst 25th Jun '19 - 3:06pm

    People have always wanted to explore new lands since the dawn of civilisation. This should be encouraged. What we need is people migrating for the right reasons, to enrich their experiences and learn new cultures. So we want want more towards reasons and less away from reasons for migration. Away from reasons should be neutralised in the country of origin but let’s not throw the baby away with the bath water.

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